Former Auckland City Mayor John Banks has expressed his admiration for activist Penny Bright, who is gravely ill in Auckland Hospital.

Banks told Herald he is thinking only kindly of Bright at this time and very sad to learn she is so unwell.

Bright was rushed to hospital a week ago with a life-threatening diabetic condition on top of stage three ovarian cancer diagnosed at the height of a battle to save her house from being sold for refusing to pay rates for 11 years.

With all her many crusades she never left us in any doubt

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She was given between one and six days to live by doctors, but marked the sixth day yesterday by turning 64, telling the Herald in a beside interview: "I am alive, yippee."

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Bright talked about various Auckland mayors she had crossed swords with, including Banks, who was Mayor of Auckland City in 2001-2004 and 2007-2010.

In one famous incident, Bright was one of several protesters evicted and dragged by security guards on the instructions of Banks from a council meeting at the Auckland Town Hall in 2002.

In the same year, Bright took part in the "Wake Up Auckland" movement that saw about 1200 people marching up Queen St against Banks' leadership style and policies, including the sale of council pensioner housing.

Yesterday, Bright said to be fair to Banks he had the concept of fair play and acknowledged she was prepared to stand up and have a go.

"I don't hate anybody. It is all about the behaviour and it is the actions of John Banks I don't agree with," she said.

Banks said he had no animosity towards Bright, but "admiration for her braveness in her stand for the matters she cared deeply about".

"It will never be said she didn't keep us on our toes and made us have second thoughts about the things she stood for and stood against. With all her many crusades she never left us in any doubt," said Banks.

Penny Bright, middle, and fellow activist Lisa Prager attempt to force their way into a council meeting at the Auckland Town Hall against a decree from Mayor John Banks that placards would be banned. Photo / File
Penny Bright, middle, and fellow activist Lisa Prager attempt to force their way into a council meeting at the Auckland Town Hall against a decree from Mayor John Banks that placards would be banned. Photo / File

Funnily enough, Bright was more generous in her comments towards the right-leaning Banks than left-leaning mayors Phil Goff, Len Brown and Dick Hubbard.

She said Goff was acting in a very arrogant and contemptuous way - "It's Mayor Phil Goff, not Monarch Phil Goff".

Goff said today: "I wish her and her family well at this difficult time."

Len Brown's crime, said Bright, was not committing a sin, but taking undisclosed freebies from SkyCity. Brown admitted receiving free hotel rooms in a review of an affair during his mayoralty.

On Dick Hubbard, she said he was the "People's Mayor who had me thrown of the Town Hall seven times because he didn't want to hear what I had to say."

Speaking from the United States, Hubbard said Bright was a "colourful character and larger than life".

"She was sincere in her beliefs. Yes, she caused me some aggravation and problems whilst I was in office but I don't do grudges or hold grudges generally and particularly under these circumstances.

"At this difficult point of time our thoughts and best wishes are with her and her family," said Hubbard.

Brown could not be reached for comment today.

In a brief telephone conversation today, Bright said she had no hard feelings towards Banks and appreciated his thoughts.

She said she had got a bit more sleep during the night "but I'm feeling knackered now". She is in a stable condition.

Penny Bright outside her home in Kingsland, Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Penny Bright outside her home in Kingsland, Auckland. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Bright is in a single room at the public hospital with her partner of 13 years, Julian, an "incredible caregiver" who shuns the spotlight. Her two sisters and other family members have visited and she has a brother in Australia.

For more than 20 years, Bright has been at the forefront of attempting to stop neo-liberal economics infiltrating Auckland local government.

In a quest for full transparency of council spending on private sector consultants and contractors, the self-proclaimed "anti-corruption whistleblower" stopped paying rates on her house in 2007.

At the start of this year Auckland Council began enforcement action as a last resort and the house was listed for sale to recoup tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid rates and penalties.

Bright settled her case with council in May after seeking a rates postponement application at the 11th hour after offers closed on the Kingsland property she purchased in 1990.